40 x 40 x 4.5 cm
Punched board, wood, acrylic glass
Collection Museum Haus Konstruktiv
Donated by Sammlung Rolf und Friedel Gutmann
Nach dem Gesetz des Zufalls [According to the law of chance]
Hans Arp, or Jean Arp, was an Alsatian artist of German descent (born 1886 in Strasbourg, France [then Germany], died 1966 in Basel, Switzerland). He was a poet, visual artist, and a key figure of modernism. When he became a French citizen in 1926, his name was changed to Jean Arp, which is how he is known in art history. He was a co-founder of the Dada movement in Zurich and Cologne and an innovative exponent of biomorphic abstraction. In rejection of academicism and dogmatism, he ignored all conventions, and he sought out a dialogue with abstract and constructivist artists as well as Dadaists and Surrealists. He was in favor of collaborations between styles and disciplines, and he realized joint projects with Tristan Tzara and Kurt Schwitters, among others. The most important figure in his career was Sophie Taeuber, with whom he began a close and artistically fruitful collaboration and long-term relationship in 1915 until her death in 1943.
Arp’s fascination with becoming and passing away in nature, or metamorphosis, was inspired by natural laws, and it posed as a link between his early Dadaist art and his abstract, biomorphic works. Once, while walking in Ascona he noticed the objects washed up on the beach. The different mineral, organic, and anthropomorphic shapes left a deep and lasting impression on him and would become the backbone of sorts for the naturalistic budding and swelling forms that became characteristic of his works on paper. They would also become increasingly prominent in his large-scale sculptures from the 1950s onward.
Arp’s work “Nach dem Gesetz des Zufalls” from 1959 unites two defining elements of his artistic practice: biomorphic shapes and the principle of chance. He remarked in 1966 that the shapes found in nature, which he simplified and whose essence he captured in dynamic ovals, were metaphors for eternal transformation and becoming. According to one anecdote, he tore up a drawing he was unhappy with and threw the pieces on the floor, only to find in their chance arrangement the perfect composition he could not achieve himself. In Arp’s work, chance stands for a kind of order that governs nature and is beyond human control. For Arp, using chance and entirely or partially letting go of his power over the work’s form meant enriching the work in terms of both form and content. This life-long search for ways to overcome boundaries and for alternatives to a reified rationality constitute the immanent basis of Arp’s continuous development of a poetic form of permanent change that renounces rationality.